Friday, 30 December 2011

The New Year wears hope

A new year is a new beginning! With a new found resolve to move forward in 2012, how can you be sure to achieve your resolutions, or goals?

And, more importantly, are you balancing all areas of your life that you want to see progress in?
 Some of us have realized that we did not manage to reach all the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the 2011.

We failed to execute them; setting and achieving a resolution requires determination, focus, effort, and commitment.

Changing old habits and developing new ones won't happen overnight.

 As we look forward into the New Year, it becomes increasingly important to not only focus any resolutions on your physical health, but also focus on your mental and emotional well being, your Body, Mind and Spirit.

But how many people are making New Year’s Resolutions?

Each new year I resolve I simply must try harder.” Try harder to be more organized, try harder to educate our children better, try harder to learn to care and love more those I hold close to my hear – my love, parents, brothers and sister and to my friends.

All I know to achieve this, I must be resilient to overcome all the trials, learn from the past as it guides my present which is today and above all to ensure all that I resolve to do is implemented.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the endEcclesiastes 3:11

Why? To forge new tracks across this year I will need more than simply sheer effort, gritty determination.
The day will be long, the way deep. Discouraged, we’ll be tempted to turn back to familiar, rutted paths.

I have to set, fixed, times to make certain tracks each day to allow for the wind to move me, for inspiration to surprise me. Sporadic creativity or intermittent commitment generally fails to forge a steady trail.

Commitment and consistency is all I need because people respond to others who are consistent in their messages. If you are constantly giving the same messages to people and acting in a consistent way, they will respond positively.

Today, more than ever, I need to have a solid idea of my options so I’m prepared for anything. I won’t let life or the economy sideswipe me or knock me around like tennis shoes in a dryer.  By lining up opportunities and having backup plans at the ready, I’ll feel more confident, less vulnerable, make smarter choices, and start to pay more attention to what really makes me happy and gets me closer to my goals.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Devolution, one of the most ambitious programmes in the world - World Bank

“Individual dreams, aspirations, needs and efforts when combined produce more beautiful, more inclusive and more sustainable results,” Anonymous.

Bungoma town.

Kenya must build political institutions that generate dynamic stability.  Just as the Assistant Minister for Planning and Vision 2030 Peter Kenneth says “Let’s define the kind of leadership that will work for Kenyans… to spiral the economy to the lowest level.”

The World Bank in its fifth economic update dubbed “Navigating the Storm Delivering the Promise” cut Kenya’s economic growth forecast for 2011 to 4.3 percent from its earlier forecast of 4.8 percent.

“This will be higher than Kenya’s long-term growth rate of 3.7 percent but still a full percentage point below the average projected for Sub-Sahara Africa,” the bank said in its latest twice-a-year report on east Africa’s biggest economy.

However, it projected its growth to rise to 5 percent next year and 5.5 percent in 2013, but this would depend on whether Kenya can navigate this year’s economic crisis caused by inflation and a weaker shilling, as well as have peaceful elections in 2012, implement the constitution and devolution which it said will “provide more equity and prosperity” if “ Government policies strike balance between redistribution and growth enhancing policies, service delivery and simple and transparent fiscal transfer architecture monitored and understood by the citizens for accountability purposes.”

Economic analysts say, Security, employment, infrastructure are some of the key areas that need to be checked.
Internal security must be guaranteed to enable a stable civil environment that upholds security of persons, property, access to and equality before the law. Governments must build social cohesion, eliminate conflict and ease the paths to self betterment for their citizens through equitable access to resources, services and opportunities that will improve earnings, consumer purchasing power, savings and investments.

Moreover, an efficient infrastructure network is the backbone of the productive sectors of the economy, which are key drivers of economic growth and social progress.

According to this view, economic infrastructure does not exist for its own sake, but rather to support various kinds of economic activity.

By efficiently moving goods and services to where they can be used most effectively, transport adds value and spurs growth.

Investments in infrastructure can also be used as a springboard to fight poverty through investments in agriculture, health and education services. Infrastructure development is also an enormous untapped potential for the creation of productive employment.

In addition, a well-developed economic and social infrastructure is an important indicator of the quality of a country’s investment climate for would-be investors, both local and foreign.

Road construction of the Eldoret -Malaba Highway in Western Kenya.

Snippets to the World Banks’ report on Kenya’s economic Outlook Navigating the Storm Delivering the Promise gives the following

  • 2012 will be a defining year for Kenya.  National elections, the establishment of a new system of devolved government, and the possibility of deterioration in global economic conditions will make the next twelve months extremely challenging.  At the same time, if Kenya manages these challenges well–peaceful elections and transition to a new government, successful introduction of a new system of devolved government and continued growth during a global financial crisis–2012 will set the foundation for a more prosperous future.

  • Kenya is navigating rough economic waters, which will lower growth prospects for 2011 and possibly 2012 as well.
  • High food and fuel prices, the drought in the Horn of Africa, and the Euro crisis have weakened Kenya’s external position, which was already fragile given the large current account deficit.  These economic challenges will lower growth to an estimated 4.3 percent in 2011.  For 2012, the World Bank projects growth to recover slightly and reach 5.0 percent, if Kenya succeeds in managing the risks.
  • Kenya’s constitutionally-mandated devolution is one of the most ambitious programs of its type in the world.  The bulk of decentralization reforms will be implemented in 2012 and will impact Kenya’s social stability, service delivery, and fiscal health for years to come.  In responding to the economic crisis, Kenya’s policy makers will need to find the fiscal space required to deliver on the promise of devolution, while protecting public investment.

Key Recommendations to respond to the economic turbulence

  • Remain steadfast in containing macroeconomic pressures, by reigning in inflation expectations while containing the debt-to-GDP ratio.  This will require maintaining tight monetary policies and fiscal prudence to manage the economy over the short term.
  • Guarantee a level playing field for all market participants and avoid regressive economic policies.  Price and currency controls distort economic activity and typically result in worse outcomes, namely higher prices and a weaker currency, while increasing opportunities for corruption.
  •  Enhance export competitiveness.  Kenya will succeed economically and be less vulnerable to shocks only if it balances its economy through stronger exports.  It now needs to move beyond tea, tourism and horticulture, where it is already performing strongly.  Kenya is well positioned to make new products (such as textiles, chemicals and automotive parts) and enter new markets (such as Asia) if it continues to improve its infrastructure and investment climate.  Increased domestic energy production, especially geo-thermal, would play a critical role, as it will also reduce dependence on expensive fossil-based thermal energy.

Key Recommendations to manage Kenya’s decentralization successfully

  • Ensure a fair distribution of national resources commensurate with county needs and capacity and balancing national interests.  This will involve clarifying the responsibilities of county governments and the process for transfering of functions will be phased over time.

  •  Devise a simple and transparent transfer architecture that promotes spatial redistribution without compromising growth and efficiency objectives.  While tackling geographic inequities is a central promise of devolution, this will need to happen over time, so as not to jeopardize future growth and existing service delivery.  The objective should be to equalize opportunities for all Kenyans, while recognizing that economic growth will be concentrated in certain areas.
  • Build capacity in Kenya’s counties, particularly the weaker ones.  Paradoxically, those counties that stand to benefit the most from devolution in theory (the more remote, least developed counties) could lose out in practice, if their capacity to manage devolved funds effectively and transparently is not sufficiently developed.
  • Get accountability right from the start.  Accountability should focus on both funds and performance, and systems should emphasize both central monitoring and reporting, but also maximize the involvement of citizens so they can hold their representatives accountable.
  • Ensure transition does not interrupt service delivery.  Effective coordination of the transition at both national and county levels will be crucial.  Urban services will be particularly vulnerable since the existing institutions in charge of urban services will be abolished. This will require a clear and inclusive decision on who is in charge of coordination and agreement on a high-level strategy for implementation

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Michelle Obama: when it comes to the challenges we face, we simply don't have time to sit back and wait.

It has been more than three decades, but those bullet holes in the ceiling, this broken altar still stand as vivid reminders of the history that unfolded here at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, South Africa.

You all know the story – how 35 years ago this month, a group of students planned a peaceful protest to express their outrage over a new law requiring them to take courses in Afrikaans. Thousands of them took to the streets, intending to march to Orlando Stadium.

But when security forces opened fire, some fled here to this church. The police followed, first with tear gas, and then with bullets. While no one was killed within this sanctuary, hundreds lost their lives that day, including a boy named Hector Pieterson, who was just 12 years old, and Hastings Ndlovu, who was just 15.

Many of the students hadn't even known about the protest when they arrived at school that morning. But they agreed to take part, knowing full well the dangers involved, because they were determined to get an education worthy of their potential.

That June day wasn't the first, or the last, time that Regina Mundi Church stood in the crosscurrents of history. It was referred to as "the parliament of Soweto." When the congregation sang their hymns, activists would make plans, singing the locations and times of secret meetings. Church services, and even funerals, often became anti-Apartheid rallies. As President Mandela once put it, "Regina Mundi became a world-wide symbol of the determination of our people to free themselves."

It is a story that has unfolded across this country and across this continent, and also in my country — the story of young people 20 years ago, 50 years ago, who marched until their feet were raw, who endured beatings and bullets and decades behind bars, who risked, and sacrificed, everything they had for the freedom they deserved.

It is because of them that we are able to gather here today. It is because of them that so many young women leaders can now pursue their dreams. It is because of them that I stand before you as First Lady of the United States of America. That is the legacy of the independence generation, the freedom generation. And all of you – the young people of this continent – you are the heirs of that blood, sweat, sacrifice, and love.

What will you make of that inheritance? What legacy will you leave for your children and your grandchildren? What generation will you be? I could ask these questions of young people in any country, on any continent. But there is a reason why I wanted to come here to South Africa.

As my husband has said, Africa is a fundamental part of our interconnected world. When it comes to the defining challenges of our times – creating jobs in our global economy, promoting democracy and development, confronting climate change, extremism, poverty and disease — for all this, the world is looking to Africa as a vital partner.

That is why my husband's administration is not simply focused on extending a helping hand to Africa, but focusing on partnering with Africans who will shape their future by combating corruption, and building strong democratic institutions, by growing new crops, caring for the sick. And more than ever before, we will be looking to our young people to lead the way.
In Africa, people under 25 make up 60 percent of the population. In South Africa, nearly two-thirds of citizens are under the age of 30. So over the next 20 years, the next 50 years, our future will be shaped by your leadership.

I want to pause for a moment on that word – leadership — because I know that so often, when we think about what that word means, what it means to be a leader, we think of presidents and prime ministers. We think of people who pass laws or command armies, run big businesses, people with fancy titles, big salaries. And most young people don't fit that image.

But when it comes to the challenges we face, we simply don't have time to sit back and wait. True leadership – leadership that lifts families, leadership that sustains communities and transforms nations – that kind of leadership rarely starts in palaces or parliaments. That kind of leadership is not limited only to those of a certain age or status. That kind of leadership is not just about dramatic events that change the course of history in an instant. Instead, true leadership often happens with the smallest acts, in the most unexpected places, by the most unlikely individuals.

Think about what happened in Soweto 35 years ago. Many of the students who led the uprising were young. They carried signs made of cardboard boxes and canvass sacks. Yet together, they propelled this cause into the consciousness of the world. We now celebrate National Youth Day and National Youth Month every year in their honor.

Think about the giants of the struggle – people like Albertina Sisulu, whose recent passing we all mourn. Orphaned as a teenager, she worked as a nurse to support her siblings. When her husband, Walter Sisulu, became Secretary-General of the ANC, it was up to her to provide for their family. When he was imprisoned for 26 years, it was up to her to continue his work. And that she did. With a mother's fierce love for this country, she threw herself into the struggle.

She led boycotts and sit-ins and marches, including the 1956 Women's March, when thousands of women from across this country, converged on Pretoria to protest the pass laws. They were women of every color, many of them not much older than all of you. Some of them carried their babies on their backs. And for 30 minutes, they stood in complete silence, raising their voices only to sing freedom songs like Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica. Their motto was simple, but clear: "If you strike a woman, you strike a rock."

Ma Sisulu, the students of Soweto, those women in Pretoria, they had little money, even less status, no fancy titles to speak of. But what they had was their vision for a free South Africa. What they had was an unshakeable belief that they were worthy of that freedom –- and they had the courage to act on that belief. Each of them chose to be a rock for justice. With countless acts of daring and defiance, together, they transformed this nation.

Together they paved the way for free and fair elections, for a process of healing and reconciliation, and for the rise of South Africa as a political and economic leader on the world stage.

While today's challenges might not always inspire the lofty rhetoric or the high drama of struggles past, the injustices at hand are no less glaring, the human suffering no less acute. There are still so many causes worth sacrificing for. There is still so much history yet to be made.

[Young people] can be the generation that makes the discoveries and builds the industries that will transform our economies; the generation that brings opportunity and prosperity to forgotten corners of the world and banishes hunger from this continent forever; the generation that ends HIV/AIDS in our time; the generation that fights not just the disease, but the stigma of the disease and the generation that teaches the world that HIV is fully preventable, and treatable, and should never be a source of shame.

[Young people] can be the generation that holds leaders accountable for open, honest government at every level, government that stamps out corruption and protects the rights of every citizen to speak freely, to worship openly, to love whomever they choose; the generation to ensure that women are no longer second-class citizens, that girls take their rightful places in our schools and the generation that stands up and says that violence against women in any form, in any place — including the home – especially the home –that isn't just a women's rights violation. It's a human rights violation. And it has no place in any society.

Your efforts might not always draw the world's attention. The change may come slowly, little by little, measured not by sweeping changes in the law, but by daily improvements in people's lives. But I can tell you from my own experience – and from my husband's experience – that this work is no less meaningful, no less inspiring, and no less urgent than what you read about in the history books.

[People of conscience cannot be content with their own comfort and success when they know that other people are struggling.] As my husband often says, if any child goes hungry, that matters to me, even if she's not my child. If any family is devastated by disease, then I cannot be content with my own good health. If anyone is persecuted because of how they look, or what they believe, then that diminishes my freedom and threatens my rights as well. In the end, that sense of interconnectedness, that depth of compassion, that determination to act in the face of impossible odds, those are the qualities of mind and heart that I hope will define your generation.

As one of our great American presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, liked to say, I hope that you will commit yourselves to doing "what you can, with what you've got, where you are," because in the end, that is what makes you a lion. Not fortune, not fame, not your pictures in history books, but the refusal to remain a bystander when others are suffering, and that commitment to serve however you can, where you are.

Now it will not be easy. You will have failures and setbacks and critics and plenty of moments of frustration and doubt. You may not always have a comfortable life. You will not always be able to solve all the world's problems at once. But don't ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.

It's what happens when folks start asking questions — a father asks, "Why should my son go to school, but not my daughter?" Or a mother asks, "Why should I pay a bribe to start a business to support my family?" Or a student stands up and declares, "Yes, I have HIV, and here's how I'm treating it, and here's how we can stop it from spreading."

Soon, they inspire others to start asking questions. They inspire others to start stepping forward. Those are the "ripples of hope" that a young U.S. senator named Robert Kennedy spoke of when he came here to South Africa 45 years ago this month. In his words, he said, the "numberless diverse acts of courage and belief which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

That is how a church can become a parliament. That is how a hymn can be a call to action. That is how a group of young people with nothing more than some handmade signs and a belief in their own God-given potential can galvanize a nation. That's how young people around the world can inspire each other, and draw strength from each other.

I'm thinking today of the young activists who gathered at the American Library here in Soweto to read the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King for their inspiration. I'm thinking of how Dr. King drew inspiration from Chief Luthuli and the young people here in South Africa. I'm thinking about how young South Africans singing the American civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" in the streets of Cape Town and Durban. I'm thinking of how Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica echoed through university campuses in the U.S., as students – including my husband –planned boycotts to support students here in South Africa. I'm thinking of this church and how those stained windows depicting the struggle were donated by the people of Poland, and how the peace pole in the park outside was donated by people from Japan, and how every week, visitors from every corner of the globe come here to bear witness and draw inspiration from your history.

Finally, I'm thinking of the history of my own country. I mean, America won its independence more than two centuries ago. It has been nearly 50 years since the victories of our own civil rights movement. Yet we still struggle every day to perfect our union and live up to our ideals. Every day, it is our young people who are leading the way. They are the ones enlisting in our military. They're the ones teaching in struggling schools, volunteering countless hours in countless ways in communities.

In this past presidential election, they were engaged in our democracy like never before. They studied the issues, followed the campaign, knocked on doors in the freezing snow and the blazing sun, urging people to vote. They waited in line for hours to cast their ballots.

I have seen that same passion, that same determination to serve in young people I have met all across the world. If anyone of you ever doubts that you can build that future, if anyone ever tells you that you shouldn't or you can't, then I want you to say with one voice – the voice of a generation –-you tell them, "Yes, we can!"

US First Lady Mitchel Obama's speech on her recent tour to South Africa.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

You never know what life is like, until you have lived it. - Marilyn Monroe

As the year draws to a close it is nice to look back at what we achieved this year.

Both in our personal lives and at work, there is a great sense of excitement as the year draws to a close. We have to reflect on our accomplishments professionally, above all, we have to keep on striving to achieve our dream. 

Since child hood, dreams and goals shape our lives and motivate us to learn from our failures and success.

Dreams are important for all ages. Dreams encompass goals and more. They give your life purpose, direction, and meaning. They shape your life choices, help you build toward the future, and give you a sense of control and hope. They're an expression of your potential and give voice to your talents. They're a source of pleasure and help develop the self. And they can change the world –famous words from Martin Luther King, Jr.

To make up from our shortfalls, to achieve the change that is greatly desired, we also have to change the way we do things with regard to our attitudes, feelings no matter how persuasive our friends and close pals speak to us, and unless change comes from within us the change will be elusive.

                                          Photos/courtesy of!/crystalsimeoni

We should remain hopeful, calm and united despite our diverse opinions as 2012 draws near.

Above all, I am thankful for all the people I have always interacted with. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:  To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to leave the world a better place; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.